Saturday, 31 August 2013

Syria Crisis: The Hawks Will Return.

'Cameron supported intervention without being sure he could secure the necessary parliamentary backing. For him the situation was a daunting one, but it did not require a political genius to see what resistance to force lay within his party'
Ironically, it was Cameron's determination to recall Parliament and use the sort of 'public diplomacy' used by Tony Blair that ensured there would be no British military involvement on Syria based on the government's motion on August 30. So he acheived far more than Miliband in preventing war.

If Cameron had accepted the sort of approach favoured by Miliband then it is quite possible that British military involvement based upon the case against Assad for having allegedly used chemical weapons on August 21 may well have gone ahead should the UN inspectors have found 'some' evidence.

With news of President Obama now playing for time and putting the matter of US military involvement to Congress, a combination of Cameron and Hague's blundering and bluster and Miiband's opportunism could well mean that if Congress votes for it another vote could be sought in Parliament.

Milband was not against military action in principle but judged the public mood and that of Parliament better. If Obama now starts building up the 'compelling evidence' he has referred to and that was stated as the second condition Labour tabled in its amendment, then another vote could happen.

This, unfortunately, is not out of the question as Liam Fox indicated. The spin machine is in full motion now trying to portray the imperative for a missile strike against Assad's regime and military assets. Moreover, there is a new emerging consensus about the value of the delay to making the case firmer.Fox stated
"I think it is reasonable to wait until we have had the report of the UN inspectors but ultimately we will still have to make a response as an international community. We may have put it off for a few days from the British perspective but we still have to make a response."
"It is against international law, it is a war crime. We have a duty as an international community to make a response to that. 
"I think it is reasonable to wait until we have had the report of the UN inspectors but ultimately we will still have to make a response as an international community. We may have put it off for a few days from the British perspective but we still have to make a response." 
Lord Reid, defence secretary under Tony Blair, said Labour leader Ed Miliband was right to force a delay, insisting it would "maximise the legitimacy" of the use of force.
He told Today: "I can't speak for Ed or for the party officially but I do think that his decision was a wise one and I do think that the Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to heed Ed Miliband's call to await the UN inspectors report was also a right one and a wise one.
"I say that especially because we are less than a week or so away from their conclusion, it's not a matter of months or years, and because waiting maximises the legitimacy of the use of force if it proves to be necessary.
"It also increases the prospect of greater international support for any action whereas jumping the gun, taking military action before the United Nations inspectors have had a chance to report, over a matter of 10 days, not 10 years or 10 months, jumping the gun on that would diminish both of those chances of legitimacy and support"
What these seasoned and wily political manipulators are saying is that even if the case for military intervention was lost by Cameron on the basis of the motion and manner and timing of its presentation, then there is no reason why a 'different' case could not be re-presented later somehow.

Those celebrating prematurely that military intervention has been avoided for good need to understand that a lot of politicians firmly wedded to the US and the special relationship and the 'power' that gives are not going to let something such as democracy get in the way of making the 'right decision'.


Ashdown can be satisfied that Britain may yet get involved.There is a distinct possibility of a second vote. The Spectator columnist Isabel Hardman has argued it may well happen. The idea Miliband was truly defying Washington is almost certainly a 'triumph of hope over experience'.

If Congress does not debate and vote on action until 9 September, there is time for the UN weapons inspectors to report and the UN Security Council to vote. This assumes Congress does approve action (and Obama said he was confident he would get the support, hopefully based on better intelligence than that which led Cameron to be equally confident at the start of this week). But if all of those conditions are met, would the Labour party support action? If they would – and it would be foolish for Cameron to return to the Commons without absolute certainty of Miliband’s support – then the Commons could plausibly see another vote on whether the UK should be involved in the international response to the chemical attacks.
It is worth noting the wording of Ed Miliband’s point of order in the Commons on Thursday night once the defeat had been announced:
‘On a point of order, Mr Speaker. There having been no motion passed by this House tonight, will the Prime Minister confirm to the House that, given the will of the House that has been expressed tonight, he will not use the royal prerogative to order the UK to be part of military action before there has been another vote in the House of Commons?’
Cameron won’t return to Parliament unless he is sure of victory on this issue. But Miliband hasn’t ruled out another vote either
Cameron is going to be hell bent on getting his way and forcing intervention on Britain whether it likes it or not.

Syrian Crisis: On the Usless British 'Stop the War Coalition'.

Thursday's vote by MPs to bar the way to British involvement in a war against Syria is a vindication of the mass anti-war movement in this country over the last decade. Parliamentarians of all parties claimed that they had "learned the lessons of Iraq". Better late than never, of course.
The problem with the Stop the War Coalition is that it is led by the dregs of the hard left who have rigid ideological motives for opposing any war other than those which are against 'imperialism'. The very term 'anti-war' is deeply Orwellian as nobody wants to to be 'pro-war'.

Official dissimulation and spin from governments is as inimical to a democracy as the depressing fact the StWC leadership is less interested in war because it means 'more death' but because it is a great propaganda opportunity to harness in support of its underlying hard left agenda.

Andrew Murray remains a supporter of one of the world's most lethal totalitarian regimes in history the USSR which throughout its brutal and democidal existence brought militarism, the one party state, labour camps, political repression to an apogee and an unwanted empire to Eastern Europe after 1945.

If that had no bearing on the leadership of the StWC or the desire to channel 'outrage' at wars branded as 'liberal intervention' by those for the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars towards 'anti-imperialist' agitation, then the propaganda of the StWC could just be seen as mere populist annoyance at 'warmongering'.

But the fact is that those pursuing wars of 'humanitarian intervention' are not pantomime style villains 'concealing' their 'imperialism' with pleasant sounding words. All Murray has done as a leader in the StWC is demonstrate the spin doctors obsession with framing and fixing the debate.

Take this,
'The "special relationship" and "liberal interventionism" have alike been exposed as preoccupations of the establishment – indeed, only a section of it now – with no democratic mandate underpinning them. The possibility is now open for Britain playing a different role in the world, breaking with the policies and preoccupations of imperialism'.
The US is an imperial power but Britain is not. Moreover, many nations participated in the 'liberal intervention' in Afghanistan for reasons that have never been completely understood. No war is ever only about one thing but much evidence points to most wars since 1990 being resource wars.

Murray hypocritically condemns wars as being only a product of establishment preoccupations and 'imperialism'. But it seems clear most of the liberal interventions were partly about bringing democracy to countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. These were wars advocated according to enlightened self interest.

No foreign policy ever has an exact 'democratic mandate' as if all people should be given a direct vote on whether war should happen or not. It is also difficult to understand why that is so important to Murray in any case given the StWC leaders have a history of supporting dictatorships.

Yet foreign policies based on 'democracy promotion' are intended to promote democracy and open access to the resources that enable the vast majority of consumers in the West to enjoy their high octane lifestyles. In order to criticise foreign policy one first has to understand what is really at stake.

The myth that military interventions are only 'all about oil' and corporate profit is a comforting one because in means the political elites-or Them-are wholly responsible and those who are not members of an elite would not benefit from stable or falling oil prices and gas.

Many people probably really value the economy more than morality. Where do you think the gas is going to come from ? As North Sea gas depletes, Qatar has become a main supplier to Western economies of LNG. Qatar backs the anti-Assad insurgents as do Saudi Arabia so the West supports them.

If they at least knew the facts, they might change their mind. But that the geopolitics of energy resources and pipeline routes are a major factor in the calculations of the main regional and global players in the Middle East is just not mentionable in front of the children.

The StWC also has no interest in an intelligent consideration of what military interventions are about. It had no clear 'position' on Syria and did not even care much until it seemed possible that Britain might join the US in intervening. As such the StWC had zero influence in the Parliamentary vote on Syria.

That is why Murray is attempting to take the credit for 'stopping the war'. As usual, self important StWC leaders are trying to justify their usefulness as any careerist politician, spin doctor or hack journalist does. There is no chance of averting future conflicts unless people understand how the world actually works.

That means going beyond rant filled embittered diatribes about 'warmongering' and 'hypocrisy' because in some sense unless a person is prepared to live without a car, not fly Easy Jet, never buy out of season fruit or advocate nuclear power then the possibility of conflicts over access to oil and gas resources is set to stay.

As Tolstoy wrote “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” The constant finger jabbing accusations about the 'hypocrisy' on the political elites' as opposed to 'ordinary people' is a common populist one made by those outside the established political system

Anyone can oppose wars whose origins are, in fact, not all identical or reducible to 'our imperialism'. The StWC was set up to 'stop' the 2001 Afghanistan War and, in fact, any war, But the proposed missile strikes, whatever one thinks of them would not amount to a war in themselves.

Murray does not understand the nature of the Syrian Crisis. That becomes quite obvious when
'This is the case in Syria, too, where the crying need is not for more bombing by anybody, but for a concerted drive for a Syrian-based political solution. The starting points have to include the west abandoning its cynical policy of basically prolonging a civil war which it wants neither side to win.'
This is not the situation.

The entire foreign policy of Washington on Syria has been and is about taking sides in the civil war and supporting its allies in Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia who are backing the militias fighting against Assad. The only reason it does not want Assad 'to go' is that Washington fears chaos and Al Qaida.

The intention behind the threat of missile strikes is to convince Assad that he will never win the civil war and to compel him to negotiate from the position of weakness at any forthcoming Geneva Conference. That would ensure, so the idea goes, that more pro-Western members of the SNC take power.

The reason is that the Western powers, primarily the US, France and Britain are strong allies and 'strategic partners' of Qatar and Saudi Arabia who support anti-Assad insurgents absurdly referred to as 'the rebels' against 'the regime'. Qatar supplies a large proportion of LNG to the West.

Iran, of which there is no mention here, is the regional enemy of Saudi Arabia and supports Assad and Hizbollah in the civil war. Washington does not want Iran to extend its influence through Iraq and Syria towards the Mediterranean, not least by building a gas pipeline from the South Pars gas field in the Gulf.

Ultimately, the geopolitical wrangle is crucially about the oil and gas supplies and regional influence. Qatar wants to build a gas pipeline between the same gas field that it shares with Iran. The US does not want Iraq moving towards Tehran through the proposed construction of its pipeline.

It is not possible to have a credible organisation that opposes the drive towards military intervention unless its leading figures understand the nature of these geopolitical struggles. If Britain cannot produce better and more sensible opponents to the drift towards a future of resource wars they will go ahead regardless.

It is lamentable that Murray is the deputy leader of a 'Stop the War' movement with a 'stance' on Syria does not even mention the alleged chemical weapons attack which, if it were proven to have been used by Assad, is the justification being used by Washington for why it should intervene militarily.

The suspicion that Cameron was leading Britain into 'Another Iraq' by preempting the findings of the UN inspectors does not, thereby, mean that the situation is directly the same as Murray is trying to pretend. The spin was similar but the actual situation is hardly 'the same'.
'It is now clear, as indeed it was in 2003, that most people have no wish to embroil Britain militarily in the Middle East, that they want the government to abide by international law and the authority of the UN, and that standing "shoulder to shoulder" with the US come what may has no purchase on their views or feelings.'
Obviously, 'most people' did not want Britain to invade Iraq or to by dragged in to a potential region wide conflict. Nor did they seem to want even the idea of a 'limited' and 'proportionate' response using cruise missiles. But, most of all, neither they nor many MPs thought the evidence was there.

However, the Labour amendment was about, among other considerations and conditions, about waiting for the findings of the UN inspectors. 'Most people' were not convinced of Cameron's case for war and the same id true of Labour, except Miliband did not actually rule out military intervention if CWs were used.

The fact is Murray would have opposed any military strike irrespective of the specific issue of chemical weapons but he does not want to draw attention to that. Even so, unless a person is a complete pacifist ( and nobody who supports the ex-USSR or dictatorship is ) then his stance on CWs is needed.

The reason for this is that no organisation can be a 'Stop the War' coalition' unless it understands what the case for the war they actually want to stop is. Murray nowhere engages in whether the case for intervention is valid or invalid, justified or unjustified. Other leading figures he works with, though, do have views on CWs.

The StWC also has George Galloway MP as a prominent member of a group absurdly termed a 'broad coalition' by Murray. On Iran's Press, TV George Galloway claims 'his theory' is that Israel gave Al Qaida the chemical weapons so that they would use them and bring in the West to destroy Syria.
"If there has been use of chemical weapons, it was al-Qaida. Who gave al-Qaida chemical weapons?...Here's my theory. Israel gave them the chemical weapons..If there has been any use of nerve gas, it is the rebels that used it."
Now this sort of conspiracy theory mongering may well advance Galloway's media career as a left wing shock jock but it discredits sensible opposition to wars that need to be based on evidence and making a strong case against wars on the rationales being given for them.

This includes countering official 'public diplomacy' with another form of misleading propaganda that relies upon distortion, a vision of the US as representing some cosmic power of Evil that can manipulate events to its exclusive and malign will, where protests to 'Stop an Iraq' War have 'stopped' it in Syria.

I have dealt already with this distortion of fact with regards what Washington's foreign policy is and it certainly is not about deliberately and intentionally prolonging a civil war that it has not a great deal of control over. To pretend the US does have control over it is, ironically, to accept the idea the US is omniscient.

This is the basis for the line about 'the West' which is said to be 'basically prolonging' the Syrian Civil War because it 'cynically' wants neither side to win. As this is factually untrue, the cynicism is Murray's because he is simply not interested in the Syrian Civil War for any other reason than to blame the West for it happening.

The reason for this crude propaganda line is that Murray just must 'prove' that the Syrian Civil War is not about sectarian enmities between Shia and Sunni Muslims or ethnic tensions that are present in Syria itself because that might upset the supporters in the Muslim Association of Britain.

So in order to formulate the Correct Public Doctrine, Murray spins the line that the civil war can only be solved politically if 'the West' stops trying to 'prolong' as if that were, in fact, 'Western' policy' without mentioning the fact that it is Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Iran who are backing the rival sides directly.

Using casual phrases such as the West 'basically prolonging' the civil war is a propaganda assumption designed to pathetically keep up the 'Islamophobic West' line ( despite a number of Syrians wanting Western intervention ) and to give the false hope that if protest can stop intervention it stops the problem.

Yet the entire way a very serious matter of war has been hijacked by the same well organised dreary fanatics in the StWC is one obvious reason why there is no intelligent alternative to the ever greater move towards military engagement in volatile oil rich lands or those strategically adjacent to them over the past decade.

Syria: Washington Officially Puts the Case for Military Intervention.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has set forth the case for military intervention. Much of it was based on the assertion that 'we know' Assad carried out a chemical weapon attack on East Ghouta near Damascus and the case for responding has been compiled in a dossier the day before UN inspectors left Syria early

While it seems clear Kerry asserts 'we know' what Assad has done, the actual language of Washington's Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013 does not necessarily bear that out.
'The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013'
To 'assess with high confidence' is not the same as to 'support with evidence'. The line is immediately followed with 'We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack', The agent is not defined. It is repeatedly referred to as 'nerve agent' only.

The next chunk of jargon drenched absurdity comes with the assertion 'These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting'. It's an amalgam of all the unproven 'evidence' amassed in a mendacious manner.

The test has to come with who provided the sources and who would benefit from them. There is no mention of the sources or where they came from which would suggest that the US does not want a UN discussion on who was exactly responsible because the assumption it is Assad is politically convenient.
'To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence – but what follows is an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analysis of what took place.'
In which case, the repeated use of the word 'assess' is irrelevant. It really means that the US is judging rather than assessing because any objective assessment would depend on evidence beyond social media videos and accepting the initial casualty figure of 1,400 deaths put forth by the opposition.

This is confirmed by the following statement,
'In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts'.
The US government needs to footnote the sources so that they can be investigated by objective observers. Without this the 'assessment' could be that this is disparate evidence rolled into a seamless unity in order to act as a pretext for an intervention that the US and 'rebels' wanted.

The 'assessment' goes on,
'A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information'.
The 'assessment' is preliminary and tends towards the conclusion that the US has assumed the initial total of deaths is the same as that offered by the FSA estimates when news of the attack was first released into the international media. The rest of the 'assessment' is not conclusive sourced evidence.

It reads as though US government has determined what the assessment shall be in the manner that 'public diplomacy' does in framing the assessment to fit in with a policy of coercion that is deemed by Washington to be in the USA's national interests.

Syrian Crisis: Labour Was Not Opposed In Principle to Military Intervention.

A sense of reality is needed by those understandably praising Ed Miliband. The opposition leader  was not against military intervention but saw that Cameron and Hague were indeed evidently rushing Britain towards war and played the game he had to play well should the government reject his call to pursue diplomacy further

Jack Straw, the former British Foreign Secretary at the time of Blair's decision to 'stand shoulder to shoulder' with GW Bush and his invasion of Iraq, is now trying to spin the line that Labour's opposition to the government motion, defeated in Parliament, was not about rejecting the "Special Relationship" with the USA.
'That a legislative assembly occasionally rejects a recommendation from the executive will come as no surprise, least of all in Washington. That's almost the norm in US politics – even when the president and the congressional majorities are from the same party.'
But this has not happened on a foreign policy issue such as a decision to go to war for a long time, some historians have said since the mid-nineteenth century or even as far back as 1782. To downplay the significance of this in order to try remain onside with Washington is Straw's gambit.
'Labour's amendment last night was designed to fill that void, to set out a process for taking a clear decision on military action, on evidence. The government could, and should, have accepted it, and Cameron would have enjoyed a brighter morning if he had.'
So accepting the amendment which would have made the case for military intervention proceed more smoothly and still without any definite guarantee that if the UN inspectors did not find sufficient evidence, then there could be 'compelling evidence' provided from elsewhere, such as Washington.

As it happens, the rejection of both the government motion and the amendment is good because it prevents any decision being taken on the issue of chemical weapons alone irrespective of what the UN inspectors find. Both political party leaderships were confronting each other over the framing of the case for military intervention.

If missile strikes from the US and France take place with Arab League backing  ( which is unlikely ) and diplomatic support from Britain in trying to get the legal pretext organised after the UN inspectors present their findings, there is no certainty that a new way of advocating British involvement could not be found.

However, Straw touched on one apparent difference between the opposition and the government
'To achieve such a ( political ) settlement we need greater engagement with both Russia and – especially given the opportunity presented by the election of the new president, Hassan Rouhani – with Iran. Diplomatic endeavours are afoot to set out a political roadmap for peace in Syria.'
Yet greater diplomatic engagement was needed with Russia and Iran long ago in order to bring about a political settlement. But that was made on the precondition at any Geneva Conference that Assad and his supporters would step down in favour of a new regime with the 'rebel' leaders.

This precondition was a continuity in Washington's foreign policy from the time of Hillary Clinton and the demand 'Assad must go' through to June 2013 when the leaders of the Syrian National Council scuppered talks because they would not negotiate with Assad unless he agreed to capitulate.

The coercive measures being put forth now in the form of missile strikes from the US and France are in continuity with the policy of pressurising Assad that he must step down on their and the Syrian National Council's terms only. That basically means Labour is either for Washington's policy or it is not.

In reality, Miliband was against the specific case being made by Cameron and not against Washington's policy on Syria so far. In the coming days we shall see whether he is prepared to criticise US policy should the missile strikes cause dangerous consequences.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Syria: The Position of France.

French President Francois Hollande has made it clear he intends to side firmly with President Obama and the USA by threatening to intervene militarily against Assad in Syria over his alleged use of chemical weapons in Ghouta, east of Damascus. France has been the most hawkish of all the powers on Syria.

In being prepared to act with the USA, Hollande, a nominal socialist, is appearing to take the position of Tony Blair who was seen as GW Bush's 'poodle' in supporting him on military action against Iraq while the British Parliament last night rejected military action. But France's policies are not a great reversal.

France has a very strong tradition of realpolitik and national egotism which led it to oppose the invasion of Iraq in 2003 for commercial and energy reasons and for it to be the most hawkish for intervention in 2013 against Assad in Syria precisely a decade later on the same basis.

France was responsible under President Sarkozy for setting up the 'Friends of Syria' group which met in Istanbul on Monday. His successor Francois Hollande ramped up the rhetoric about the need for missile strikes to 'punish' those responsible for the alleged chemical weapon attack in Syria.

France has been at the forefront of advocating coercion as a logical extension of the policy of putting pressure on Assad to surrender power. A political transition on the terms of France and other Western nations involved in Friends of Syria has been the geopolitical goal since the civil war started in 2011.

At the Istanbul meeting one source stated “The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days, and that they should still prepare for peace talks at Geneva”.

France is a strong strategic partner of Qatar and an enemy of Iran which is backing Assad and Hizbollah. France's Total Group has long-term access to liquefied natural gas resources in Qatar and supplies an important proportion of France's LNG needs. A corporate video here was made on the subject by Total.

Shoring up Qatar's strategic position against Iranian plans to export gas to the Mediterranean via a pipeline through Syria would be achieved through a rival pipeline planned from the South Pars gas field ( which Qatar shares with Iran ) towards Turkey which also backs the Muslim Brotherhood.

As energy expert Felix Imonti commented in the online magazine for specialists interested in the industry called,
''Pipelines are in place already in Turkey to receive the gas. Only Al-Assad is in the way. Qatar along with the Turks would like to remove Al-Assad and install the Syrian chapter of the Moslim Brotherhood. It is the best organized political movement in the chaotic society and can block Saudi Arabia's efforts to install a more fanatical Wahhabi based regime. Once the Brotherhood is in power, the Emir's broad connections with Brotherhood groups throughout the region should make it easy for him to find a friendly ear and an open hand in Damascus.'
Gas rich Qatar also invests vast amounts of money in the French economy, not least to revive depressed suburbs of large French cities which are prone to disorder and riots from alienated youths often holding radical Islamist ideas and viscerally detesting France's 'global role'.

President Hollande's policy with Qatar is firmly within the mould set by Sarkozy is offering strategic assistance to Qatar in return for lucrative Qatari investments which the French foreign ministry put at $15 billion, not including those of the Emir and family relations.

France's backing for Friends of Syria and Qatar's regional ambitions is based on a mutually beneficial partnership and pursuit of ruthless strategic ambitions not mentioned by papers such as Le Monde which reacted to the alleged chemical weapon attack with the headline 'Indignation is Not Enough'.

Appendix: Arms Deals

The urge in France to be at the forefront of advocating coercion to force Assad 'to go' is that it has joined a race to please Qatar and extend the benefits of Qatari petrodollars in promoting the task of job creation as President Hollande would as a 'socialist'.

The Financial Times reported as follows on Hollande's position
“We have reached a balance (of bilateral investments) and wish to preserve that and want to increase the volume of that exchange,” he told a news conference in Doha, noting that France was trailing behind the UK and Germany in the race to lure Qatari petrodollars.
Qatar, which has been flexing its financial muscle since the credit crisis, has made several investments in French companies and real estate, amounting to as much as $15bn in the past few years. The ruling family has also invested significant amounts of money in Paris.
The British government, as represented by Chancellor Osborne, is mentioning how Parliament's rejection of military action in Syria is about 'whether Britain wants to play a big part in upholding the international system, be that a big open and trading nation that I'd like us to be or whether we turn our back on that".

France wants to maintain its primacy as the main arms dealer to Qatar as well, in particular lucrative sales of  French Rafale fighter jets made by Dassault . In June in Doha, Hollande stated, during talks on Syria about  Assad's position, and with evident satisfaction and pleasure,
"We supply light and modern arms to the Qatari army. I made new proposals for air, land and naval defence. I am quite confident that we will make progress in each of these areas...France will always be there for Qatar to ensure its defence and security,"
The British government is going to be concerned that it could fall out of favour with Qatar and lose prestige and influence now that the annoying problem of democracy has got in the way of Cameron, Johnson and Osborne potentially losing ground to France and other Friends of Syria with these lucrative interests.

Syria: Britain's Role a a Global Player.

Osborne also said the White House, which may now press ahead with strikes alone, had shown a lot of understanding. However, he acknowledged it could place a strain on the "special relationship" between Britain and the US.

"I think there will be a national soul-searching about our role in the world and whether Britain wants to play a big part in upholding the international system, be that a big open and trading nation that I'd like us to be or whether we turn our back on that,"

"I understand the deep scepticism that my colleagues in parliament and many members of the public have about British involvement in Syria. I hope this doesn't become the moment where we turn our back on the world's problems."
After Cameron was defeated In Parliament on a vote on military action, Chancellor Osborne is positioning himself to win over those in the Party and Public sceptical about Cameron's leadershop the better to to pose as a potential alternative pole in the Conservative Party in readiness for Hague resigning or being sacked.

Qatar is a major investor in Britain and supplier of Liquefied Natural Gas as North Sea gas depletes rapidly. Qatar is not going to be impressed with Britain not being there to defend its commercial and energy interests through backing the insurgents opposed to Assad and its Persian Gulf rival Iran.

Already Western diplomats from nations in NATO and France as part of the 'Friends of Syria' Group have been backing Washington's stance on coercive dipomacy , that is missile attacks, to ratchet up the pressure to get Assad's departure and a political transition.

If the consequences of the Syria Crisis escalate to a higher level than the specific issue of chemical weapons use within Syria following a US led missile attack, NATO could intervene and a new vote not specifically concerned with chemical weapons but joining NATO intervention could be held in Parliament.

This bleak possibility reflects the fact this conflict is the opening part of a renewed struggle for the protection and control of energy resources that Europe desperately needs to be reduce dependency on Russia and where the US has national interests as importer of and exporter of oil and gas.

Should the US proceed to launch missile strikes and the Syrian crisis develops into a region wide war, Britain would quite possibly be drawn in to military operation if Turkey, a NATO member, was threatened or attacked by Assad.

Alternatively, another motion could be preposed on Syria not based on chemical weapons but on Assad's danger to 'the international community' if events spiral out of control. Then Miliband would vote for military action to protect Britain's interests in the region, that is the oil and gas supplies.


* France is due to hold a Friends of Syria meeting in Paris very soon.

** Rueters reported on 27 August
The Friends of Syria core group comprises the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
U.N. experts trying to establish what exactly happened in the attack were finally able to cross the frontline on Monday to see survivors - despite being shot at in government-held territory. But they put off a second visit until Wednesday.
"The Americans are tying any military action to the chemical weapons issue. But the message is clear; they expect the strike to be strong enough to force Assad to go to Geneva and accept a transitional government with full authority," a Syrian opposition figure said.
"The message to the opposition was to get a team ready for Geneva, and be prepared for the possibility of a transition. But we must also be ready for the possibility of the collapse of the regime. If the strike ends up to be crippling, and if they hit the symbols of the regime's military power in Damascus it could collapse," the source said.
This entire conflict has always been about energy interests. NATO has made 'energy security' one of its priorities in recent years and NATO aided the air strikes on Libya in 2011. The EU is also a backer of the Friends of Syria and France has pledged to aid the Syrian 'rebels'.

France to respect EU rules on weapons to Syrian opposition
'We have committed with other (EU) member states to only make deliveries to the Syrian National Coalition with the aim to protect the civilian population and to demand guarantees on the end users and destination of equipment in order to assure an attentive follow-up," Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said Wednesday when questioned about more weapons for the SNC'
The British government is going to look at other ways of consulting with EU and Western powers to preserve its energy security and commericial interests with the Gulf monarchies. Osborne knows the economic value of these ties

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Syria: No Military Intervention for Britain.

Barack Obama's plans for military strikes against Syria were thrown into disarray on Thursday night after the British parliament unexpectedly rejected a motion designed to pave the way to authorising military force.
What is good about this decision is that MPs did not vote the government's motion in support of military action in Syria even if it was supported by evidence from United Nations weapons inspectors. It is unlikely to stop Washington going ahead anyway and its a setback for its 'public diplomacy'

Washington would still be able to gather a 'coalition of the willing' in the form of the Arab League and, quite possibly, in the shape of the NATO powers. So long as Assad did not attack Turkey, it seems as though Britain is not going to be able to participate.

Cameron's and Hague's incompetence and cavalier approach has had an unexpected benefit. William Hague should now resign. But this was no victory for Miliband either as his amendment was not voted for as well. The MPs in Parliament from across the political divide have rejected military action.

Syria : The Missile Strikes as 'Coercive Diplomacy'.

The Obama administration's preferred option for a potential strike on Syria is likely to leave Bashar al-Assad's government with significant chemical weapons and military infrastructure, according to military analysts.
In the first confirmation of the scope of any attack, White House principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday that Obama was contemplating "something that is discreet and limited."But "boots on the ground" or "any military options aimed at regime change" were not up for discussion, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Thursday. Similarly, "we're not talking about a Libya-style, open-ended no-fly operation,"
One comparison here is Operation Desert Fox in 1998 when the US and UK bombed Iraq for four days in order to 'degrade' Saddam Hussein's capacity to produce and use 'weapons of mass destruction'. The aim of these air and missile strikes could be similar to that outlined by Madelaine Albright.
"I don't think we're pretending that we can get everything, so this is - I think - we are being very honest about what our ability is. We are lessening, degrading his ability to use this. The weapons of mass destruction are the threat of the future. I think the president explained very clearly to the American people that this is the threat of the 21st century. What it means is that we know we can't get everything, but degrading is the right word."
The difference is that this is 2013 and Syria is in the middle of a serious civil war. To start bombing is effectively to commit to the anti-Assad side and the insurgents backed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. If the bombing is a token gesture to prove US 'credibility' it will do nothing to ensure that.

Assad is not going to be removed by his military capacity being 'degraded' but it could lead to an intensification of the war on the ground as he loses the advantage he had until this as yet unexplained and alleged chemical weapons attack. It is said the aim is not 'regime change'.

It is difficult to understand what the logic behind these missile strikes would be beyond proving that crossing Obama's 'red lines' on chemical weapon use ( despite their being no conclusive proof as to the facts as yet presented to the UN security council ) means he would give a 'green light' to a strike.

The bellicose rhetoric of 'punishment' advocated by France's President Hollande, mingled with statements about humanitarian intervention and 'acting as the conscience of the world' wheeled out in Britain by the oily Michael Howard today, adds up to nothing coherent other than what is obvious beneath the spin and deceit.

Put clearly, the strikes would be the opening salvo in longer campaign of coercion implicit in the position taken by the West that 'Assad must go' for two and a half years after the civil war broke out in 2011. The US and Britain have always made that the precondition for negotiations on a political transition in Syria.

The fact is that this threatened use of force is an extension of the unwillingness to engage in proper diplomacy with Iran in order to uphold the West's tacit backing for Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar's proxy war in Syria against their main Persian Gulf rival.

This strategic alliance is mostly concerned with the geopolitical and energy interests it shares with the West. Yet engaging in diplomacy with Tehran was one of the only ways that could have brought about the political settlement Western statesmen claimed they wanted.

At a meeting last Monday in Istanbul of Western diplomats from 11 “Friends of Syria” nations made clear strikes could be expected. The group wasset up with the express purpose of organising regime change outside of the UN Security Council after the Russian and Chinese veto on a resolution condemning Syria in February 2012
 “The opposition was told in clear terms that action to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime could come as early as in the next few days, and that they should still prepare for peace talks at Geneva”

Syria: 'Public Diplomacy'

'A British military attack on Syria will have to be a "judgement call" as there is no "single smoking piece of intelligence" that the regime used chemical weapons, David Cameron said at the beginning of the emergency Commons debate on Syria'
So Cameron has made it clear that he is Prime Minister and he will make the 'judgement call'. It is a similar position to Tony Blair 'believing' that the invasion of Iraq was 'right' and when he took the decision it was voted for by Parliament. It is Washington that decides and the Parliamentary debates are largely irrelevant.

None of the party political leaders is against the use of military strikes on principle. Cameron is claiming essentially that he believes Assad used chemical weapons and that inaction is not an option. Miliband is attacking the exact manner in which Cameron has proceeded to make the case for intervention.

The case for military intervention itself is not subject for debate. Only the demand from Milband that it follows due procedures that Cameron is not denying will be attempted but that UN security council mandates are not necessary because of the role of 'the responsibility to protect' and prevent a humanitarian disaster.

The second vote is when it really matters and what actually counts. If Washington decided the evidence is satisfactory for a military strike to proceed, then the question is whether Parliament will defy Cameron and whether the Labour leadership will reject any 'compelling evidence' the US government provides.

Cameron is just 'on message' from Washington about the issue of there being 'no smoking gun'. i.e no definitive piece of evidence proving Assad intentionally and explicitly carried out a rocket attack using chemical weapons. The Labour amendments were still about framing the possible case for military action

US officials have already indicated that if Britain does not give Washington support, it would be prepared to act anyway. Harf stated robotically a few hours ago '“We make our own decisions and our own timeline". So that is that then and what politicians here decide would not affect the USA's response

Little Parliament does or does not do will affect Washington's line. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said "When the president reaches a determination about the appropriate response ... and a legal justification is required to substantiate or to back up that decision, we'll produce one on our own."

The second motion in Parliament will take what Washington does into consideration and if it determined to launch a military strike there is little chance that Miliband would vote against it or defy Washington as it will find a 'legal basis' and put out the sort of 'public diplomacy' Miliband could accept.

Syria: Is Labour Really Opposed to Military Action ?

The Labour opposition is not realistically going to be able to prevent a military strike if Washington decides upon it.

Ed Miliband's shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander is a fervent believer in Atlanticism. Alexander studied in the USA, worked for a Democratic Senator in Washington DC and remains a staunch Blairite in principle if not practice. They look to Obama for vision and inspiration.

And Douglas Alexander and Ed Miliband supported the disastrous Libya campaign. They are posturing solely in order to distance themselves from the bad dent Iraq had on Blair's fortunes and Labour's election loss. Both are craven and self serving career politicians without integrity.

They are substantially no different from Clegg or Cameron or Hague. The opposition has to be seen to be 'reflecting' the 'public concern'. This does not mean Labour has taken a substantially different line as the amendment makes clear.

The reality is that Miliband needed a boost in his profile and popularity after his 'leadership' was criticised for being indecisive and lame throughout the summer Since the US is prepared to give time for the inspectors, Labour can pose as 'responsible' should any military strikes go badly wrong.

But it can only do that if it is, ultimately, prepared to defy Washington with enough rebel MPs from other parties. It is very difficult to see how enough in Parliament are loyal to their country which does not want war rather than their careers.

The voting on military action has been carefully staged by Cameron and Hague. The first motion is worded carefully so as to contain reference to the house being willing to support a military action should the evidence of the UN inspectors prove sufficient for a case for it to be spun before a second motion.

The test will come if the US pushes on and Cameron tries to browbeat Parliament. Labour is unlikely go against that if the spin can spun prove Assad definitely carried out intentional chemical attacks and some sort of dodgy legal pretext can be cobbled together before a second vote in Parliament happens.

As no vote is legally binding, Cameron and Hague would be able to proceed anyway but will get enough MPs to be whipped into supporting the government line because not enough of them are going actively oppose the government should the US decide that strikes are necessary and legal.

Can anyone imagine Miliband having the backbone to forthrightly condemn Washington and any military action completely ?

Brian Milne.

I agree on what Alexander and Miliband are, but I somehow suspect that they are reflecting the will/opinion of the people. That is two things in one. Firstly, they do get a bit more support for the 2015 election out of this, but secondly it is a reflection of public opinion which is the last thing Cameron and Clegg ever take into account.

Also, it may just be that they have looked at the situation and see that the chemical weapons may not have been the government's doing but of one of the groups attempting to bring Assad's regime down. Perhaps they have also paid attention to the possibility that if the USA rushes in and bombs the place into all round submission, the aftermath will be an encroachment by a radical Islamic regime that will add to the woes of the west. It is that much closer to both Egypt and Turkey that are getting closer and closer to the 'precipice'. As we can see, Egypt is now a mess and can the west afford Turkey becoming hard line Islamic instead of moderate and within the EU?

Karl Naylor.

The Labour amendment only echoes the government motion with further demands that the UN weapons inspectors have the 'necessary opportunity' to report to the security council on their findings. But nobody has denied that the UN inspectors would not be given the opportunity.

The USA has not indicated that the UN inspectors would not be given the opportunity to present their findings. All of the 'conditions' laid down by Labour could be met easily enough if Washington decides military strikes have a 'legal basis in international law.

Apart from Iraq, and even then international law was invoked to justify it, all Britain's wars have been justified by upholding international law in some way. The wording of the Labour amendment is twaddle. They are calling for 'a legal basis' for an action and that could be provided easily enough.

The real argument is not really only about a possible 'legal basis in international law; but about the power political consequences of any military strike. Ultimately, the Labour leaders, in my opinion, will not vote against a military strike if Washington can spin a plausible case.

Attempting to intervene in Syria in accordance with a 'legal basis' shows the absurdity of the way politicians have tended to leave out a discussion of the real politics which is briefly referenced in part six of the Labour amendment,

'action must have regard to the potential consequences in the region'.

The point here is that even if, the 'legal basis' for intervention can be tacked together and Assad is clearly beyond doubt held to have intentionally launched a rocket strike with chemical weapons to kill civilians, any military strike can only be judged on that basis.

Yet there have been no arguments from the Labour opposition on that basis at all so far. This is not the debate either they or the government want. They both prefer wrangling over words and framing devices in presenting any case for military action.

Yet there is no doubt that the debate between the British government and the opposition is about the correct manner in which to proceed and not any deeper discussion as to what the aims of any military strike would be beyond the supposed primacy given to that of chemical weapons.

Syria: The West Blunders Closer into the Syrian Civil War.

Hans Blix, the UN weapons inspector in the run up to the Iraq War has given his opinion on Syria.
'Obama, like Bush and Blair, seems ready to ignore the council and order armed strikes on Syria with political support from only the UK, France and some others.
While much evidence points to the guilt of the Assad regime, would not due process require that judgment and consideration of action take place in the UN security council and await the report of the inspectors that the UN has sent to Syria – at the demand of the UK and many other UN members?'
Given the British government's threat that it could launch an attack on Assad's state without UN Security Council backing, the responsibility for the possibly justifying any attack depends on the absolute proof that it did use chemical weapons intentionally and poses an imminent threat to the Middle East.

Without giving time for the UN inspectors to complete their findings, any military strike is an act of aggression that sets a precedent for taking international law into the hands of the US, Britain and France. Even the 'responsibility to protect' is a shaky pretext with regards to Syria.

Missile strikes by the US on Syria's military installations cannot do anything to protect the civilians on the ground on either side of the sectarian divide in a brutal civil war. As the West cannot be intending to take out chemical weapons facilities, the argument about deterring further chemical attacks is weakened.

The aim cannot be to get full 'regime change' as that would lead to greater chaos and a worse version of the lawlessness that has engulfed Libya after the US, France and UK promised to use air power to prevent a massacre in Benghazi.

Moreover, by effectively siding with the anti-Gaddafi insurgents in 2011 the West overstepped its mandate after China and Russia approved of a limited use of air power in a nation not as crucial to their geopolitical interests as Syria and, by extension, Iran is.

The fact is that any response to the Syrian crisis has to involve diplomacy and not military intervention. If 'the West' ignores the other global powers, there is no longer any reason why China and Russia would need to take Western states interests or opinions into account in future.

The ratcheting up of the drive towards military action against Syria is about maintaining Western credibility and being seen to stand by Obama's previous declaration in August 2012 that Assad's use of chemical weapons would 'cross a red line'.

A 'red line' however is a rhetorical device not an international law. More evidence in US foreign policy for two and a half years after the civil war broke out; that is is the use of the threat of coercion to bring Assad to the negotiating table based on the precondition he hands over power.

The apparent drive towards war at present and the presence of ships in the Eastern Mediterranean armed and ready to strike is an extension of the most coercive form of diplomacy short of effectively threatening military action. It could be a way of breaking the 'political deadlock' with Russia on US terms.

One aim is to force Russia into a corner should the UN inspectors find evidence that chemical weapons were used and then it could be proved that Assad must have used them. The Western powers will in the next three days before the UN inspectors complete the task be searching for a legal pretext for action.

However, it looks very unlikely Russia is going to withdraw its backing for Assad nor for there to be a clear version of events and evidence presented as to 'who did it'. The US claims it has all the intelligence already but if it wants to pursue even a semblance of legitimacy in dealing with the crisis it has to renew diplomacy.

But now the drive to war has been cranked up it is very difficult how the West is going to be able to back down without 'doing something'. This would be an idiotic blundering into the unknown as military strikes unleash their own dynamic and create unforeseen circumstances that could draw it in further to the Syrian civil war.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Syrian Crisis: Red Lines and Green Lights.

Regionwide war could break out if , in response to US and UK cruise missile strikes, Iran steps up the arms supply to Assad's government and its proxy Hizbollah attacked Israel. Then Israel, a nuclear power, may well decide to try and use the rhetoric about WMDs to take out Iran's suspected WMD sites.

Israel has kept fairly quiet during the Syrian crisis and threats of military action against Syria. Some Iranian spokesmen and commanders have made oblique statements about how an attack on Syria would 'fan the flames' of 'outrage' across the Middle East.

If Israel sees Assad or Hizbollah as being directly supported by Tehran while they are attacking Israel it could deliver an ultimatum to Iran or just act if the situation on the ground deteriorates into an ever greater life and death struggle between Assad's most Shia Alawi backed government and majority Sunni militias.

Another regional flashpoint is Bahrain. The tiny Gulf Kingdom is ruled by a Sunni monarch in a land where 70% of the population is Shia. Since the Arab Spring of 2011 there have been revolts and riots so bad that Saudi forces had to roll in and crush the protests.

If Qatar and Saudi Arabia step up their arms supplies to the insurgent groups they are backing in Syria further ( they did on August 25 after Western military intervention was first put forth ) Iran could, if pushed too far, try to stoke up unrest to increase its regional influence against Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain was relatively stable in 2013. However, in July Shia terrorist groups were already setting off explosions in order to exacerbate sectarian tensions. Bahrain is also the naval base for the US Fifth Fleet which would be used in Tomahawk cruise missile strikes against Assad's Shia state.

Tensions are simmering in Bahrain because leading members of high society close Bahraini royal court such as the Salafist Sheikh Faisal al-Ghurair las month announced “We are happy to tell you that we have sent arms and ammunition to the mujahedeen in Syria”.

However, the real tensions that could create the greatest instability would be the chaos in Syria developed greater and turned into a failed state such as Afghanistan, not least as Saudi Arabia is terrified not only by potential Shia opposition in the east near main oil producing zones but Al Qaida 'blowback'.

Syria: Why Syria Concerns Britain

The Internet is full of voices that say 'Syria is none of our business'. If only that were true, Britain would not have been ramping up the aggressive rhetoric for the past two years about Assad 'going' nor trying to avoid engaging in diplomacy with Iran and even with Russia over Syria's future.

Syria does concern Britain as the Middle East has to because its central to the global economy upon which Britain depends for investment, especially from Saudi Arabia and Qatar which back 'the rebels'.There is no point in trying to pretend that these interests are not interconnected with our way of life here.

Syria will concern us even more when Britain gets dragged in to a potential new Afghanistan situation should military intervention cause the civil war to intensify or spread into Lebanon or drag Iran further in and be responded to by Saudi Arabia.

In the short term, the best thing to do is to stay out but in the longer term Britain needs to take energy self sufficiency as a matter of urgency and not be drawn in by gas rich states such as Qatar to take sides in potentially lethal sectarian conflicts.

The long term challenges are huge, the inertia and complacency vast and the short term prospects of being drawn in to an epoch of intractable resource wars a terrifying reality. What happens if the conflict spreads ? If Saudi Arabia is threatened with blowback ?

There is every reason to be filled with foreboding at the outcome of any military strike by the US and Britain. I have no confidence in the ability of Cameron or Hague to know what they are doing. Lots of military experts and diplomats are aghast at what is being proposed.

Syria: On the Brink of Regionwide War

'World leaders have issued a string of bellicose statements in the last 24 hours, with Iran and Russia standing alongside the Assad regime against an emerging western alliance led by the US, UK, France and Australia. Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Araqchi, intimated that Tehran would respond, should the west strike.'
It's difficult to see how the aggression of the West can be held in check now. They have the Arab League onside now so the oil and gas interests are safe, at least at present.Now the US, France and UK are casting around for the correct legalistic formula to justify a military strike as opposed to pursuing diplomacy.

However, if the conflict spills over from Syria into Saudi Arabia or Iran steps up its support for Hizbollah and Shia militias to combat an emboldened Free Syria Army, the war on the ground could intensify to the point where Iran is then threatened by Saudi Arabia and then what will the West do ?

The aim of the Western powers is ultimately to get regime change in Iran. But Russia is hardly going to stand idly by. And China has started to get a great deal of oil from Saudi Arabia in the last decade. Yet it has large interests in Iran and oil assets in Iraq as well.

This military intervention could be catastrophic. It is hardly going to remove Assad's regime and that is not the aim. The purpose is to 'degrade' his regime, Western leaders claim, to prevent him using WMDs with 'impunity' through the West acting with unilaterally in tangent with the rich Gulf States.

The idea is Assad is to yield to the pressure of this 21st century version of 'gunboat diplomacy' by negotiating a way out that allows the West to coalition a new regime in Syria that is not pro-Iranian and also strong enough to resist Al Qaida.

It is hard to see how that could be acheived. The West would face a strong regional power such as Iran more directly should it act to shore up Assad and should the sectarian struggle on the ground in Syria become even more intense. Shia agitation in Bahrain against the Sunni monarchy could flare up.

Moreover, Hizbollah acts as a state within a state in Lebanon and if it ratchets up the struggle to defend Assad in concert with Iran then Israel could be dragged in to the region wide conflict. That is why Assad's advisers are already making noises about retaliation against Israel.

We are standing on the precipice of an extremely dangerous region wide conflict that could even create an oil price shock and destabilise the world economy. Saudi Arabia is not firmly secure from any 'blowback' from Syria if it falls into a situation similar to Afghanistan in the 1990s.

Supposed statesmen such as Hague exemplify the continuity between the neoconservative strands of geopoltical thinking dominant in 2003 and still influential a decade later in 2013. Hague has learnt nothing from the Iraq War whatsoever

Nor does Hague seem to have recognised the obvious fact that Iran has been able and willing to intervene in Syria a lot more because the upshot of the Iraq War to remove the secular tyrant Saddam Hussein was to create a Shia led government in a country where 70% are Shi'ites.

The abstract and coldly fanatical geopolitical fantasies about hastening a showdown with Iran through Syria and Iraq ( 'regime change' )  is firmly a component part of neoconservative ideology. Hague believes this is his 'world historical' moment. It might be in ways he hardly expects, assuming civilisation continues.

Syria: Why Britain Wants War

Britain wants to back and be backed by the oil and gas rich states in the Arab League which are hostile to Syria and its ally Iran. The issue of chemical weapons is only important in that if they were used they would give Assad an ultimate advantage over the anti-Assad insurgents.

Syria is in a civil war and British 'public diplomacy' ( an admixture of public relations and propaganda rolled into one ) presents one side is a regime and the other as rebels.When factions of the rebels commit atrocities they are denied to be part of 'the opposition'.

Britain is not wanting to dominate the Middle East. The reality is Britain's is dominated by the Middle East. Qatar owns a large part of the UK economy. It is integrated closely into the EU's economy and it is increasingly dependent upon liquefied natural gas ( LNG ) from Qatar.

It's a 'mutually beneficial partnership'.

Advancing strategic interests in the Gulf region is essential for the continued functioning of Britain's role as a site for Qatari investment, especially in London. Syria is regarded as an ally of the enemy of our Gulf partners who have backed militias against the Assad government.

Cameron's close political ally and friend Boris Johnson, the Maylor of London,  was in Qatar in April 2013 to drum up trade and relations and to promote the mutually beneficial partnership. The non too subtle campaign slogan was 'LONDON IS GREAT Britain'.
“The most important thing about this trip is to see how much it is a two-way process. The UK is one of the biggest exporters to Qatar. We are aiming for forming a partnership in many areas such as academic ventures in higher education, cultural projects, media projects and many more. It is also very encouraging to see what British businesses are doing in Qatar.”
Qatar is a major backer of anti-Assad insurgents and stepped up arms supplies to them on August 25 in the wake of the alleged chemical weapon attack. It wants Assad to go in order to further its plans to build a pipeline to Turkey and to prevent a rival pipeline from Iran via Syria to the Mediterranean.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Syria: Caution Thrown to the Wind.

'Putin's position on Syria and the determination to act scrupulously within the law prompted government sources to caution against an immediate military response. Sources said ministers, in common with the US administration, would want to take time to study the evidence from the UN'
Caution was obviously necessary. Yet there has been very little evidence that the UK, France and the US leadership has done anything contrary to giving the impression that they are very much decided upon  attacking the 'Assad regime' no matter what the evidence from the UN inspectors turns out to be.

What is so dangerous here is that the US is regarding the alleged chemical weapon attack as a propaganda trump card necessary to restore its 'credibility' after two and a half years of demanding Assad should go without any success. This is brinkmanship of a very dangerous sort that could spin out of control.

Using cruise missile attacks against Assad as 'a show of strength' when the UN inspectors have not completed their mission nor presented their findings cannot acheive anything of benefit. It cannot remove Assad nor guarantee the situation on the ground would not deteriorate further.

As Machiavelli knew, in politics an action can be adjudged evil or not in the light of what it is meant to acheive and whether it has any realistic chance of realising the end or not. With Syria, there is no clear end that missile strikes could acheive other than trying to aim at 'degrading' its ability to wage war.

Given that it is unclear if or why Assad would have launched a chemical weapons attack, the attempt to use missile strikes to take out his 'assets' is hardly going to bring about the political and diplomatic settlement that the West claimed it wanted and evidently did not..

Having continually made Assad's removal the precondition of negotiations and by not engaging with Iran in June 2013, missile strikes are hardly likely to compel Assad to negotiate and yet have no guarantee of removing him. At the same time, if they embolden the FSA, that is only going to intensify the war.

Moreover, there is no guarantee that missile strikes will not lead to further chaos on the ground which Al Qaida affiliated jihadist groups would exploit. As it has not yet been conclusively proved that such groups would not use chemical weapons themselves, then greater amounts them could be seized-and used-by them.

Syria: Enter the Arab League.

'the Arab League threw its weight behind the allies' judgement that the Assad regime was responsible for the chemical attack, the US and Britain paved the way for intervention, saying it would be a response to a violation of international law and not aimed at regime change.'
The final part of the plan to attack Syria is to get the Arab League to back it. The goal is regime change in that missile strikes are designed to get the Assad to negotiate his departure on the West's terms. But this is still a dangerous calculation in the New Great Game to control oil and gas.

The real stakes in the Syrian conflict are energy resources and global power politics. Qatar has funded the Muslim Brotherhood, as has Turkey, because Iran is a major geopolitical rival that is also vying with it to pump gas from the South Pars field it shares with its tiny neighbour, a leading state in the Arab League.

Qatar is a major supplier of liquefied natural gas ( LNG ) to the West where numerous states want energy diversification and not to be too dependent upon Russia. The depletion of North Sea Gas has also made Britain anxious to please Qatar and benefit from the colossal amounts of money it invests in London.

The facts are instructive as to where Britain's future strategic interests lie even though the vast majority of gas still comes from the North Sea and Norway. The UK economy has become increasingly a rentier one since the 1980s and dependent upon oil money and its export of weapons to oil rich Arabic states.
'Qatar investments in the UK have reached QR125bn ($34bn), including stakes in grocery chain Sainsbury’s, BAA (British Airports Authority), London Stock Exchange, Barclays, the US Embassy building in Grosvenor Square and the Shard of Glass development, which is Europe’s tallest building'
Qatar is a regional gas rich superpower upon which the EU states especially depend upon and hence why Britain and France were pushing Washington to intervene militarily. But the US has vital interests there too as it has become a major player in the global LNG market after its 'shale revolution'.

The Gulf states became increasingly hostile to Assad as Iran stepped up its supply of arms via Iraq and to its Lebanese proxy Hizbollah. Saudi Arabia also fears its non-Arab and Shia rival across the Persian Gulf. The oil rich kingdom fears an axis of influence between Iran, Iraq and Syria to the north and a planned pipeline.

Saudi Arabia even offered Russia a deal on control of the oil market if it gave up its support for Assad. But Russia fears that Western missile strikes could embolden Al Qaida affiliated groups within Syria, some of whom come from Chechnya and are allegedly funded by the West's strategic partner.

If Russia drops its support for Assad, then Saudi Arabia's Head of Intelligence Prince Bandar has offered an alliance between the OPEC cartel and Russia and to safeguard its gas interests in the Eastern Mediterranean such as those discovered near Tartus on the border with Lebanon where Russia has a naval base.

The lack of compliance would result in Saudi Arabia not being able to guarantee the security of the Sochi Winter Games as the West proceeds with removing Assad Bandar claimed of the jihadists “We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role in Syria’s political future.”

The imminent US and British attacks on Syria have not much to do with humanitarian outrage at chemical weapons use as these are largely a pretext for an intervention they wanted. The aim is continuity with that of getting regime change while not leading to a collapse of Syria into a failed state.

That's the reality. European states and their economies are basically too overdependent upon gas for energy from states such as Qatar and do not wish to be dependent on states such as Russia which are global geopolitical rivals with huge resources of oil and gas that it doesn't have enough of any more.

Instead of wasting time denouncing 'hypocrisy', 'warmongering' and so on ( as if this were some surprise ) it is better to concentrate on the underlying reasons why the double standards in the West's foreign policies have become increasingly obvious since the end of the Cold War.

Syria: The New Great Game for Gas.

'US defense secretary Chuck Hagel says US forces are now ready to act on any order by President Barack Obama to strike Syria. The US navy has four destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean sea within range of targets inside Syria. The US also has warplanes in the region'.
It seems that the point of no return has been reached with the prospect of cruise missile strikes against the Syrian government being launched. The propaganda machine is in full spin, the media is focusing on the 'implementation' of a military attack that has been

This is despite the work of the UN inspectors in trying to find solid evidence chemical weapon use and this concern has been eclipsed. The YouTube clips and instantaneous images from social media sites of dying children believed to be casualties of a 'heinous' attack by 'the 'Assad regime' are a propaganda coup.

There are token nods towards the UN inspectors finding the facts first but the momentum towards military action is in full swing in order to maintain Western 'credibility', the same position held by Madelaine Albright with regards the 78 day bombardment of Serbia during the Kosovo Conflict in 1999.

But Syria is not Kosovo and the potential for the conflict to spin out of control as the result of military action far greater. The aim of the West has been 'regime change' from the outset of the civil war. Iran was not engaged with diplomatically and Assad's removal the precondition for negotiations.

Regime change is about the geopolitics and the control of energy supplies. Qatar supported the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia other Wahhabi Islamist militias to remove Assad because he signed a deal to construct a rival gas pipeline from Iranian sector of the South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf.

The New Great Game for gas is a vital interest for the West which has become increasingly dependent upon LNG from Egypt and Qatar in the last decade, not least Britain whose North Sea gas reserves have depleted at an alarming rate since 1999. The EU consumes 25% of the world's gas. It produces 2%.

Iran is warning the West about its attack on the Syrian state because this geopolitical gas export route through Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean is another way to assert its standing as a global player with whom the West would need to negotiate rather than threaten with violence.

With gas export routes to the east through the Iran-Pakistan pipeline blocked off by Western manoeuvres to keep Pakistan onside ready for the construction of the Trans-Afghan pipeline-the central war aim in Afghanistan-Iran will be bound to try and back Hizbollah in Syria all the more as it becomes encircled.

If US missile strikes from its warships in the Mediterranean cause damage to Assad's regime without defeating it it can only put the backers of Syria's proxy armies further at odds in a way that could create the potential for all out regional conflict with lethal global ramifications.

For Russia has vital interests in backing Assad because a huge new gas field was discovered in April 2011 by the Syrians near the border with Lebanon and Tartus-the home of the Russian Mediterranean naval base and a potential export base of gas to the EU. Russia's Gazprom is also interested in gas deposits off Cyprus.

Unilateral US missile attacks, aided by willing European states increasingly desperate to be independent of Russian gas, is bound to be responded to by Russia should it lead to the real prospect of the Assad government collapsing because it could destabilise Chechnya. 

The decision to threaten missile strikes as a substitute for diplomacy or as an attempt to force the Assad government to step down could literally backfire if it fails to achieve that ( which is likely ) but only steps up the regional instability that could create an even worse situation to deal with in future.

Syria: Implementing Attacks.

Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to recall of Parliament is not going to stop any decision on military intervention in Syria happening. When Hague was contemplating giving direct military support to the anti-Assad insurgents in June he displayed the same insouciance he does now.
"We have a good record on going to the House of Commons for a vote. There would be a vote one way or another. I can't see any reason why it couldn't be before any such decision was implemented"
As I warned on June 11 2013 Hague took it as a given that it was a formality since the implication of his statement was that it would make no real difference anyway. He referred to a vote before a decision was implemented and not before one was actually made.

Hague knew full well that no vote either way was legally binding then no less than he knows that now with the prospect of cruise missile strikes against the Syrian government being launched. The propaganda machine is in full spin, the media is focusing on the 'implementation' of an attack.

The staunch neoconservative Michael Gove made it quite clear that Parliament is an irrelevance on this urgent matter of national importance.
 "I think the decision about how the government is going to respond to the horrendous humanitarian atrocities we have witnessed is one which is properly taken by the prime minister and the members of the national security council
 "I know the prime minister has said in the past he respects the right of the House of Commons to be kept up to date. I don't think there has been any foreign secretary who has been as assiduous in keeping the House of Commons up to date with not just what's been happening in Syria but with what's been happening elsewhere in the Middle East as William Hague.

So, I am absolutely confident the prime minister and the foreign secretary are the right people to be leading at this time and I think their response so far has been absolutely right in the face of what are horrendous crimes."
There are token nods from the US towards the UN inspectors finding the facts first but the momentum towards military action is in full swing in order to maintain Western 'credibility', the same position held by Madelaine Albright with regards the 78 bombardment of Serbia during the Kosovo Conflict in 1999.

But Syria is not Kosovo and the potential for the conflict to spin out of control as the result of military action far greater.

Syria: The West Wants War

If the US, France and UK attack Syria without a UN mandate then it will contribute further to the the creation of lawless strikes imposed by powerful states. If the UN mandate is ignored once more, then obviously it becomes increasingly clear that it no longer matters.

Foreign Secretary Hague's claims that 'we' ( i.e "the West" ) could act without a UN mandate before the UN inspectors have found any conclusive evidence and after having pressed for the inpectors to go to the site of the alleged chemical weapons attack, is both foolish and belligerent.

The refined absurdity of Hague's position was evident this morning,
"Is it possible to respond to chemical weapons without complete unity on the UN Security Council? I would argue yes it is - otherwise it might be impossible to respond to such outrages, to such crimes, and I do not think that is an acceptable situation. It is possible to take action based on great humanitarian need and great humanitarian distress. It is possible to do that under many different scenarios'
Hague starts off by claiming Britain would be 'responding' to chemical weapons. That leaves it open to interpretation that a response is not to a proven attack by Assad but to a 'regime' that could have been capable of using them and then destroying the evidence, as Hague already hinted it might.

Legalistic constructs such as 'the responsibility to protect' used in Kosovo in 1999 are becoming an artefact bolstering the de facto power of the US, France and UK to determine what international law will mean. Yet that cannot be other than an assertion of political power.

In the case of Syria, there is a brutal civil war in which regional and global powers have geopolitical interests. No amount of posturing over legalistic formulas can override the fact that the crisis has been in need of diplomatic and political negotiations.

Unfortunately, it has been those such as Hague who have continually tried to make Assad's departure a precondition for any talks at the postponed Geneva Conference. Now Hague believes ' the West' has an opportunity to use unproved attacks by Assad to force its unilateral will to resolve the crisis.

This delusion that law and a universal regime of rights can supplant politics and not be restrained by its considerations is a dangerous fiction. Cruise missile strikes will not remove Assad nor would a victory for 'the opposition' in the civil war ensure Syria would not disintegrate into a failed state.

Any proposed strike by 'the West' is less to do with 'humanitarian need' and more to do with 'credibility' and being seen as a force able to impose its will to show it has both might and right on its side. The West rejected diplomacy with Assad and Iran and wants to sideline Russia.

Belligerent rhetoric is about global geopolitics and reinforcing the idea of Western domination over the Middle East. As historian Mark Almond writes,
'They have been demanding the fall of Assad for more than two-and-a-half years now and it has become increasingly frustrating that his regime has shown much more resilience that they had expected, despite the resources that they and the Gulf Kingdoms have thrown into the war on the other side.
It is also like a distraction from the embarrassment of Egypt, where we see the European and the US governments basically using weasel words to avoid any kind of condemnation of a massacre in the streets of Cairo. So there are both the specifics of Syria and the context of what is going on elsewhere in the Arab world, especially in Egypt.'